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Mid-priced homes likely to see biggest appraisal spike

Henderson County Tax Assessor Darlene Burgess and Assistant Tax Assessor Kevin Hensley answer questions from county commissioners last September.

There were as many tax office staffers on hand as there were taxpayers when Darlene Burgess, Henderson County’s tax administrator, convened the first public information session to explain the 2019 reappraisal. The crowds may get a lot bigger when the new home assessments hit mailboxes six weeks from now.

State law requires all counties to reappraise all real property for tax purposes once every eight years but allows the reassessment once every four years. Since 1995, Henderson County has chosen the shorter time frame, in part to prevent “sticker shock” from one assessment to the next. County officials are right to anticipate questions from homeowners, and maybe angry protests, too. But with no numbers to shoot at, no one’s mad yet. The four people who came to the Henderson County public library asked questions about floodplain values and whether the assessors consider the asking price of homes on the market and got mostly vanilla answers from Burgess and two top deputies.
“Some will go up, some will go down and some will remain about the same,” Burgess said of the new values. “A four-year cycle recognizes economic changes and values.”
The four-year cycle is unlikely to prevent sticker shock in some market segments, especially for homeowners in moderately-priced family neighborhoods, real estate agents say. In Henderson County, home sales have been hot, especially for single-family homes around $300,000.
“If the county is using market data, prices have gone up, the market values have gone up significantly, so the county’s going to use this opportunity to increase tax value,” Noah George, a Realtor with Keller-Williams, said in an interview. “In Henderson County, values have gone up $25,000 in the last 12 months,” reaching an average sale price of $301,000. “Since 2011 prices have gone up significantly but the average price for a single-family home the last six months has stayed pretty steady. At one point there was a $35,000 price difference” year over year. “The gap has gotten smaller.”
The biggest increase by percent is in smaller lower priced homes, especially those in good neighborhoods.
“The cost per square foot for a smaller house has gone up the most,” George said. “You can pay $200 per square foot for a 1,000-square-foot house. Obviously, location and condition have something to do with it. The smaller houses under 300 (thousand dollars) have seen the most increase because of the lack of inventory in the affordable price range. Of 1,800 homes sold in last 12 months over a thousand have sold in the first 30 days.”
Steve Dozier knows the revaluation trends from his day job as a Realtor with Beverly Hanks and his former appointed job as chair of the Board of Equalization & Review, which hears appeals of the county assessor’s value.
“From what I’ve heard, and I see Darlene fairly often, is they’re expecting a price increase of 12 to 15 percent across the board but that doesn’t mean a whole lot until the county sets the millage rate,” Dozier said. “I think it will be a concern to some folks. Twelve to 15 percent is fairly significant,” though whether that homeowner sees an increase depends on the tax rate.
“I’m glad I’m not chairing that board anymore,” he said. “They’ll have a good number of appeals questioning why it raised so much.”
Homes in the higher price range are likely to remain flat or see a smaller percentage while mid-priced homes in popular family neighborhoods like Livingston Farms in Fletcher and Riverstone near Mills River will see big increases. Dozier ran a report showing the difference in home sale prices from 2015 to 2018 neighborhood by neighborhood. The research pinpoints the subdivisions with the greatest appreciation, including Brightwater Heights, at 26 percent; Brookland Manor, 30 percent; Druid Hills, 31 percent; Fox run, 40 percent; Highland Lake, 23 percent; Livingstone Farms, 20 percent; Long John Mountain, 25 percent; Southchase, 27 percent; and Wolfpen, 31 percent.